INDIAN HEAD, Md. – Just over a year ago, the NSWC Indian Head EOD Technology Division partnered with the community, local industry and academia to open the Energetics Technology Center’s Technology Transfer, Training and TechFire (T4) office space at the Black Box Theatre in Indian Head. Since it’s opening, the space is able to tout a number of accomplishments and successes.
The T4 program was created under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement between the command and the ETC to enhance the goals of dual-use technology development, technology commercialization, diversification of the local economy and accelerating the growth of the local industry cluster focused on energetic material, surface warfare, undersea warfare and EOD technologies. The ETC is leasing the T4 office space through a Navy contract.
“Our direction from [NSWC IHEODTD Technical Director Ashley Johnson] was to get outside the gate into a place where we can do business with partners who don’t have access to get on base. The fact that we aren’t on base is a big deal,” said Dr. Chris Wilhelm, NSWC IHEODTD Office of Research and Technology Applications Lead.
In its first year, the T4 space hosted both current and potential industry partners, local colleges and even command organizations looking for a bit more flexibility in their meeting locations. The facility has a training room that can hold more than 20 people, a conference room and internet access. The space is also proving to be a popular with small business start-ups looking to leverage the knowledge and technologies available at NSWC IHEODTD for use in the private sector.
“Partnering with IHEODTD is a primary focus for ETC, and we are pleased our T4 space is providing a necessary link between the command and the community,” said Bob Kavetsky, ETC CEO.
The ETC is a 501 c3 organization focused on research and development based out of Indian Head that assists start-ups and entrepreneurs through mentoring and incubation, while also providing connections to experts in the field of technology.
“We’ve been working with a Maryland startup company interested in commercializing some of our EOD technologies for use by civilian public safety units,” Wilhelm said. “Bomb squads don’t have 200 scientists and engineers working for them, but we do. We patent a lot of those technologies to push into the commercial space, so it becomes available to the civilian population and first responder community.”
By utilizing that technology outside of military applications and providing uses to customers such as first responders, for example, the government can maximize research dollars by filling two niches instead of just one.
Wilhelm explains the command’s knowledge set of skilled system engineers – or product developers – can be shared with industry partners to facilitate economic development in Southern Maryland. In December 2017, the command signed its first license in six years and has already seen interest from current industry partners to explore other technologies for potential private use.
“One of the things we’re seeing is faster acquisition lead times using our industry and academic partners,” Wilhelm said. “Our knowledge base here is not only a benefit to private industry, but also allows industry to bring back improved products to federal government to aid the warfighter.”
The command’s Technology Transfer office not only works with start-up businesses to commercialize the government technology, but facilitates engagements with these fledgling businesses in communicating with state funding agencies such as the Maryland Technology Development Corporation and local real estate holders to establish a business spaces in the town of Indian Head.
Wilhelm credits the ETC with enabling the success of the T4 space, as they have a network of successful local entrepreneurs looking to bring their technologies to market.
“ETC facilitates those relationships and we put them in touch with our inventors to understand the technology and look in the community for industrious people who want to start a business or expand their current business,” Wilhelm said.
The T4 space is also attracting interest from academia. NSWC IHEODTD hosted a spring Technology Transfer Entrepreneurship course for College of Southern Maryland students in the space. The course allowed CSM students to take Navy-developed technologies and work with IHEODTD inventors to understand how those products can be adapted for use in private industry and resulted in a business plan for that technology.
The T4 initiative has received the support of the Maryland state government and Town of Indian Head. Both groups are instrumental in the development of these types of initiatives in Southern Maryland.
“We have entrepreneurs interested in starting businesses, we have academic partners, we have our community partners,” Wilhelm said. “With some care and nurturing along the way, it can be something that truly turns the corner in Southern Maryland for economic development, job growth and retention.”
This blossoming partnership between the command, the community and local educational institutions serves as an indicator that Southern Maryland leaders recognize the need for strong partnerships to come support the local economy, cut down acquisition time and costs, and enable industry to utilize DoD technological applications to provide the warfighter a better product, faster.
NSWC IHEODTD – a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command and part of the Navy's Science and Engineering Enterprise – is the leader in ordnance, energetics and EOD solutions. The division focuses on energetics research, development, testing, evaluation, in-service support and disposal; and provides warfighters solutions to detect, locate, access, identify, render safe, recover, exploit and dispose of explosive ordnance threats.